Mugabe to handpick land audit team

mandivamba_rukuniThere has been a shocked reaction to media reports that Robert Mugabe will be handpicking a team of agricultural economists to conduct a land audit, despite him being the architect of Zimbabwes agricultural collapse. (Pictured: Professor Mandivamba Rukuni)

According to South Africas Sunday Times newspaper, the team of noted agronomists who will form the Land Audit Commission will be led by either Professor Mandivamba Rukuni or Professor Sam Moyo. Dr Prosper Matondi, who together with Professor Moyo was part of Mugabes Land Review Committee set up in 2003, is reportedly also being considered as a possible team leader.

Besides Rukuni, Moyo and Matondi, the team is set to include at least seven other known individuals who will investigate how land was redistributed but also look into land usage, how crop production can be maximised, while maintaining a good soil ecosystem. Quoting government insiders from the Agriculture Ministry, the newspaper reported that the land audit team was still undergoing some security background checks and would be announced soon.

The process is being co-ordinated by Lands and Land Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa, in conjunction with his counterpart at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made. Both are known supporters of Mugabes land reform exercise, and Murerwa himself has previously put land audit plans on hold.

A comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan land audit was a condition agreed to in the Global Political Agreement signed by the parties in the unity government, for the purpose of establishing accountability and eliminating multiple farm ownership. The audit was scheduled to start in October last year, but plans were shelved after Murerwa said the government did not have the estimated US$31 million to conduct the process.

Shortly after Murerwas statement, the European Commission offered to fund the audit, but insisted the process should be inclusive, transparent and comprehensive. Xavier Marchal, the head of the EU Commission in Zimbabwe, said his organisation had expressed its availability to support a meaningful land audit.

What the European Commission would like to support is a land audit that resolves the land issue, Marchal said.? The news that Mugabe will be vetting the members of a land commission has now shocked observers, who say the process will clearly be influenced by supporters of the chaotic land reform programme. Some observers have commented that Mugabes involvement will ensure that there is no transparency in the audit, allowing the truth of the corruption of the land reform programme to remain secreted away.?

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) believes an audit will reveal Mugabes multi-million dollar farm empire, as well as the multiple-ownership of farms by many in the Zanu (PF) hierarchy. According to the CFU, an independent audit would also show how corrupt the identification, allocation and evictions have been. CFU President Deon Theron told SW Radio Africa last Wednesday that an impartial and independent audit, without any government interference, is the only answer to Zimbabwes land woes.

We still have a lot of conflict still happening over so-called reallocated land, Theron explained. There is no point in a land audit that does not rectify this situation. It would be totally in vain.

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